(Translation: I. V. White)
[Reprinted by kind permission of the editor, Alpine Journal]


(This expedition of the Munich Section of the D.A.V. under the leadership of Peter von Gizycki left Munich on 25 March. The other members were Bernd Melzer, Horst Caha and Michael von Gizycki. Travelling overland they reached Rawalpindi on 11 May; they flew to Skardu, marched in and set up Base Camp at 4,300 m. at the foot of a spur of Spantik on 18 June).

On 19 June Horst and I set out on a reconnaissance. At first we climbed over the green schistose spur of the Spantik about 200 m. high and found we could very easily get round a break in the Chogo Lungma glacier, which had occurred through a shrinkage of the glacier. It took us rather longer to cross on the south side of the Spantik ridge, which stretched in a west-to- east direction, before we were conveniently able to get on to the Chogo Lungma glacier again. Now we had the massive Malubiting directly in front of us, with its Eastern Peak of 6,970 m., its Central Peak of 7,291 m. and its Northern Peak of 6,843 m., while the Western Peak of 7,453 m. was hidden behind the Central Peak. We studied the various possibilities of attacking the mountain and decided to concentrate on the north-east flank, leading to the pass between the Eastern and Central Peaks, especially as there was no evidence of avalanche activity of any kind thereabouts. A preliminary spur, which we were able to recognize from photographs, unfortunately presented some very serious problems. The ridges over the Eastern and Northern peaks were, in our opinion, too long for us to be able to climb over them to the two main peaks and, moreover, showed considerable difficulties, which earlier expeditions had not been able to overcome. At precisely 5,000 m. we pitched our tent provisionally, though we really wanted to push on a little farther for camp I. We were, however, rather late to do it that day, as we were already sinking deep into the snow. At one o'clock in the morning of the following day, all four of us continued on our way. About eight o'clock Horst and Bernd set up Camp II at 5 000 m., while Michael and I proceeded still higher. As the full moon was shining and the reflection on the snow was very great we were able to get about to a quite considerable extent at night This circumstance was of great importance, as all day long the effective temperatures in the cauldron go up to over 40 C, so that it was scarcely possible to move about very much during the day a proper sleep was not possible, as, in spite of laying the emergency blankets over the tent, which brought about quite a reduction in the temperature, it was still too hot. I his, naturally, had a noticeable effect on one's condition So at midnight we set off again, and towards morning reached the foot of the north-east flank, together with the two others, who had caught us up in the meantime. Unfortunately, owing to the failing light we were not able to detect the best going, so that we needed some time to find a way through a steep part of the glacier. Then we set up Camp III at 5,500 m. Michael and I descended to the Base Camp, which we reached at about 11 p.m., so that we could get a full day of rest. Bernd and Horst arrived completely exhausted in the middle of the following day, after a great struggle against the heat. Our liaison officer, who remained in the Base Camp all the time, was naturally delighted to have our company. We spent 23 June recuperating, drying our boots and of course eating the food, which Michael, our expedition's cook, always prepared excellently.

In the evening about ten o'clock Michael and I set out again, leaving the other two, who wanted to have a complete day of rest. We arrived at Camp II about nine o'clock the next morning and left it again at eleven o'clock in the evening to climb up the flank by the light of our electric torches. To our disappointment the condition of the snow on the whole of these slopes was really bad, a deep clutter of masses of frozen snow only permitted slow progress and we were still not yet fully acclimatized, since we had not been on the mountain very long. However, the continuing sunny weather drove us forward, as we could not help fearing that in a foreseeable time it would get bad. Early in the morning we came across a small spur projecting out of the wall, where we were safe from a possible avalanche. We pitched our 'Salewa-super-light tent' at 6,000 m. and about midnight packed it away again in my rucksack. Now we had to use the rope on two occasions to surmount very difficult places. The condition of the snow forced us to move slowly again and so, in the early morning, we pitched our tent in the shelter of the upper part of a crevasse at 6,450 m. We could see Bernd and Horst, who were coming up to Camp II and settling themselves into it. The day was spent, as usual, trying to get some sleep and to recover. Towards midnight we packed our things together again and wriggled through the crevasses and other obstacles of the wall until we finally reached the pass between the Eastern and Central Peaks. Haramosh (7,397 m.) and Nanga Parbat (8,125 m.) were spread out impressively before us in the south, illuminated by the roseate light of the rising sun. Towards the north we had a view of Spantik (7,027 m.) and of a number of unknown peaks, a magnificent panorama. Once again, at about 6,850 m., we erected our tent and in the afternoon advanced towards the southern ridge of the Central Peak, where a strong wind greeted us. Now to our great disappointment we had to accept that from here there was absolutely no possibility of reaching direct the gap on the other side between the Central and Western Peaks, although it had seemed feasible from below. This was because a steep wall of several thousand metres stretched right down to the green meadows in the valley. Close by, a wide, unproblem- atic snow-ridge led from the gap to the West Peak.

So now, near midnight, there was nothing else we could do but to cross to the north-east wall of the Central Peak, in order to approach the wall of the peak direct. This time we left our tent standing. It was Sunday, 28 June. Were we to succeed in our great attempt only just ten days after we had established our Base camp? Our objective, for which we had prepared so intensively at home and which had occupied our thoughts and conversation for so long, now lay before us. We had to fight our way over several peripheral crevasses ; we sank all the time into the deep, powdery snow and began to be clearly conscious of the altitude. We reached a couloir which rose at an angle of about 50° and led directly to the Central Peak. We progressed to some extent without the rope, supported on the front spikes of our crampons. Then at 7,000 m., at a point when my brother was above and to one side, the strap of one of his crampons became loose. As he tried to hack out a place in the ice to stand, he lost his balance and fell down a little way ; fortunately, he was able to stop him- self, but completely lost his crampon, and despite an intensive search we were unable to find it. So with heavy hearts we decided to turn back, a hard blow so close to our target, but it was quite impossible for us to go on without the crampon. Besides this, we realized that the weather was deteriorating. After a weary descent to our tent it began to snow and became very stormy, so that in the course of the day a tent-pole snapped. It was certainly a bitter disappointment to be cheated so near to the conquest of the peak, but the risk of a solo ascent was out of the question; moreover, it was a first 'lightning assault' and we were convinced that after a few days recuperation in the Base Camp we should be here again. On the 29th the weather had fortunately become calmer again, so we were able to climb down the flanks, but discovered to our horror that Camp II had been destroyed by an avalanche. We were seized with anxiety. Where were Bernd and Horst? Descending lower we found individual pieces of equipment which had been destroyed, but we were not yet ready to acknowledge our fears. And then we found Bernd, dead and cold. "Boundless grief gripped us, we really could not take it in. A short time ago we were all sitting together in the Base Camp full of enthusiasm and optimism that our target would soon be reached. And now? Everything seemed so meaningless. We moved Bernd to a crevasse. But where was Horst? From one or two indications we surmised that perhaps he had managed to get away. At night we found Camp I, and the following day, with great misgivings, we reached the Base Camp. Here we met Horst, who told us what had happened.

On 25 June they set out from the Base Camp and after two days reached Camp II, which they left about nine o'clock in the evening. About one o'clock in the morning of 27 June while they were having a rest they heard a sudden bang and saw an ice-avalanche sweep down the wall below and probably destroy Camp II at the same time. What were they to do then but go on farther? About two o'clock there was another bang and Horst was thrown into a crevasse by an ice-avalanche, he was, however, able to extricate himself very laboriously after a period of unconsciousness. Fortunately, nothing very serious had happened to him-a sore knee and slight concussion. Then he found Bernd dead with a broken spine. He could not do anything else, and so crept down to Camp I, which he left later in the evening, and so reached the Base Camp towards midday the following day.

We decided to give up the expedition. Our liaison officer took our letters down to Shigar. After a few days spent in recuperating we went, once more, up to Camp I. It was now 6 July. Since 3 July, however, the weather had become very bad, it was snowing heavily and we were unable to carry out our intention to return to Bernd to bury him in the moraine. All we could do now was to evacuate Camp I and go for the last time over the Chogo Lungma glacier, along the slope of the Spantik and down to Base Camp, where in the meantime the snow cover had completely thawed, so that it now stood on the debris-covered glacier.

(Reversing their outward route, the survivors arrived back in Munich on 7 September.)

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